BLACK & WHITE: ARE THE WOMEN READY FOR PRIME TIME? ARE THERE BETTER OPTIONS
There have been Women’s National Motocross Championships in the United States since 1974. That makes women’s racing just as old as the AMA 125 National and AMA Supercross series. But, unlike the AMA series, women’s racing has had numerous sanctioning bodies. In fact, a list of the organizations that have played a role in women’s motocross since 1974 reads like an acronym encyclopedia. The list includes PURR (Powder Puffs Unlimited Riders & Racers), IWMA (International Women’s MX Association), WMXA (Women’s Motocross Association), WMSA (Women’s Motorsport Association), WIMSA (Women’s International Motorsport Association), WML (Women’s Motorcycle League), WMA (Women’s Motocross Association), and WMX (Women’s Motocross).
The sporadic history of women’s motocross is largely told via the great women racers of each era (Sue Fish, Mercedes Gonzalez, Dee Wood, Jessica Patterson and Ashley Fiolek) and the women who put their heart and soul into organizing women’s racing (Kasey Rogers, Tami Rice and Miki Keller). At the moment, women’s motocross is very high profile, thanks to its inclusion in the men’s AMA 250/450 National Championship series and the high level of support that a handful of women (most notably Honda’s Ashley Fiolek) get.
Yet, the idea of including women in the entertainment-only venues of professional AMA motocross is not a slam dunk with the rank-and-file fans. There are supporters and detractors, those who believe the women need a showcase and those who feel that the time could be better spent supporting more popular aspects of the sport. You be the judge.
WMX WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: In both Europe and America, there are high-profile women’s championships (both named WMX, although they are not associated with each other). The European Women’s Championship has only been in existence for seven years (compared to the 37 years of women’s racing in the USA).
RACE PROGRAM: In Europe, the women race occasionally with the premier 250/450 World Championship riders or more commonly with the lesser-known MX3 Championship (although they often race on Saturday before the GP). In the USA, the women are shoehorned into the busy, one-day, AMA 250/450 National schedule. The women’s first moto is held after the men’s first moto, and their second moto is held at the end of the day (to help ease traffic). But, sometimes they are held at different points in the day depending on the TV schedule and other issues.
OBJECTIVE: In a sport that has classes for different displacements, different ages and different skill levels, it is obvious that it should have classes for different genders. MX Sports, which owns and runs the WMX, has made great strides in promoting women’s racing, and even had TV coverage for the series several years ago. There is no doubt that having women racing adds to the amount of publicity and credibility that the sport gets with the casual viewer. It adds a new dimension to a sport that typically oozes testosterone. With factory, industry and sanctioning body support, women’s racing can grow. It may not be at the highest participation level it has ever been at, but it is at its highest publicity level.
WMX WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: In the past, the European women raced seven rounds alongside the MX1/MX2 men. No more. In the last few years the FIM has been downplaying the women’s series (canceling races, sending them into exile with the MX3 riders and giving them very little promotion). Last year, the series was shortened by almost 30 percent when the final two rounds were abruptly canceled. The FIM favors 125cc two-stroke support classes over the women. Luckily for American women, MX Sports paid big bucks to buy the WMX from founder Miki Keller. With MX Sports’ money on the line, the American women’s series is safe from demotion.
RACE PROGRAM: Disgruntled AMA and FIM fans don’t think that the women are fast enough to share the same stage with the men (at least not the majority of them). While it is true that none of the women could qualify for the men’s race, they are still the fastest women in the world. Sadly, as a rule, AMA National fans walk away from the fences during the women’s race, which is one reason that MX Sports moved the women’s second moto until after the day was done?to use them as a buffer to lessen traffic woes.
OBJECTIVE: Everybody has an agenda. The FIM wants to get rid of the women, but doesn’t want to look like the bad guys. MX Sports is financially invested in women’s racing and doesn’t see dollar signs in other support classes (although they did hold two Honda CRF150 support class races when Honda agreed to pay for them). As for the negative race fans, they have no interest in the women’s races and it has been suggested that the women’s series should be cut back to six races and the AMA Nationals augmented with six rounds of an age-limited (16-to19-year-old) 125cc two-stroke development series. MX Sports would do it ? if a manufacturer would step up and pay them (the women don’t need a sponsor because they are owned by MX Sports). That puts the burden on KTM ? and KTM doesn’t see why they should pay to provide half-time entertainment for the Nationals when they are already financing a full factory team for the 250 and 450 National series, especially after getting socked by the Supercross promoters for hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for the Pee-Wee half-time shows. Everybody has an agenda with women’s motocross?what’s yours?